Hands-On Preview: EA Sports UFC Demo

When THQ went under, I was hugely concerned that my beloved UFC franchise would be kicked to the curb and relegated to the bargain, but luckily a major player stepped up and acquired the franchise. Enter Dana White and EA, two parties that, at one time, were foes and are now holding hands to bring you the next installment of next generation cage fighting. So how do things fair so far judging by the demo? In one word, fantastic.

This is one of the best looking sports/fighting games made to date. EA Sports UFC uses the Ignite engine and really showcases what it is capable of. No two fights are ever the same and cuts, bleeding and bruising are all realistically developed during a fight. Fighters’ cuts will get worse as they take more damage and bruises will become more visible as the match goes on. I have been able to cause cuts over eyebrows, on cheeks, and bruise a fighter’s legs and abdomen.

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The demo opens up with a quick tutorial that takes you through the basics of striking, modified striking, defending, takedowns, transitions and submissions. This is a lot to remember in a short time for a novice player. The good news is that if you had played previous versions of UFC Undisputed, the controls will feel familiar to you and you can get by pretty quickly. And if you played the previous EA Sports MMA title, you’ll be familiar with the stamina gauge and conserving energy to not get gassed. Where the demo really moved into uncharted area is with submissions (they compose of initiated, guarded and completed), which are totally different than any other title to date.

In the demo you can choose either reigning light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (19-1-0) or Alexander Gustafsson (16-2-0) and fight for three rounds. Jon Jones is an overall 97 while Gustafsson is an overall 94, although Jon Jones feels a bit more overpowering when being used. Once you choose a fighter then you can see the match settings (for the demo they are locked) which are: Difficulty, Match type, Round Length and Venue. Once you begin loading up the match you will get random game tips and fighter quotes to keep you busy before Bruce Buffer announces the two fighters.

EA Sports UFC took great care in making sure the feel of a real UFC fight was captured. Everything from the announcer Bruce Buffer (the official announcer of UFC), referee Yves Lavigne, the Octagon (complete with sponsors), fighter trainers, and even Octagon girls were meticulously scanned and given an authentic feel to the demo. Even the commentary puts you right into the fight with Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg calling the action and letting you know when a cut to a fighters cheek is getting worse or repeated leg kicks are damaging a fighter.

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Once all the intros are done, you now are in for the real treat: fighting! Whichever fighter you choose, even on the locked in easy difficulty, be prepared to be challenged both standing and on the ground. I’ve played easily over a few dozen matches and each one has played out differently with me winning and losing in a variety of manners from TKO to KO to even Flash KO.

Striking in the game feels crisp and deep. You cannot just spam punches and kicks as you will deplete your stamina and make yourself susceptible to a takedown or a counter strike, which could lead to a KO. Takedowns can now be modified and you have the ability to shoot for a single or a double leg takedown now. Transitions and guard passes require you to know which direction you want to go to and what ultimate position you desire (i.e. the full mount, side control or taking someone’s back).

Ground and pound is brutal, and if you can capitalize on a position you can easily end fights with big punches from the top; but you are never defenseless in the game and can reverse, strike or go for submissions to get yourself out of bad situations. Striking was pretty simple to pick up and learn the different technical modifiers, while submissions continued to feel foreign. Beginning a submission and defending it seems simple but completing one is a whole different story. I cannot get a submission past the initial grapple, but I guess it will just take more practice.

Mind you this is only the demo and there is still a lot of the game that we can experience.

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In closing, the EA Sports UFC demo is an amazing way to show off the game and what it’s capable of. It’s also a good way for people to get a feel for the game and really decide if they want to take a leap into the franchise on next gen consoles. The learning curve on the demo alone is very steep, but once you begin to master the controls you begin to feel like a real MMA fighter. This is as real as it gets!

The demo was released on June 3rd for Xbox One and PS4. I played it on the PS4 for these impressions.

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